If I were a recent high school graduate looking for a path to future success within the field of technology, I would probably look at 3D printing as one of the areas where I’d like to focus my studies. I would take classes on manufacturing, 3D modeling, prototyping, and engineering in order to build up my knowledge and background in areas where 3D printer manufacturers may look when hiring new employees. I would imagine it being quite a desirable job to work for a company such as Stratasys, Formlabs, 3D Systems, or MakerBot. I would be working with technology that is on the cutting edge of advancements within manufacturing. This technology may just lead the world to a third industrial revolution. What isn’t there to like?

Staples Launches Pilot 3D Experience Center

The other day, I was speaking to an employee of a large 3D printer manufacturer, who I will leave nameless. He brought something to my attention that I found both very interesting and a bit disturbing.  He pointed out that, according to a third party website, there seems to be a trend in the overall workplace environment at some of these larger 3D printer manufacturers.

Those of you familiar with the website Glassdoor.com know that it is a rather useful tool in determining several key aspects of various companies and job positions. It allows users to anonymously rate the companies they work for, as well as provide details on salary and opinions of their bosses. While it can’t exactly be taken as a complete picture, when looking at any individual company or an industry as a whole, it does provide a small sample size that can either be taken with a grain of salt or relied upon when seeking employment. It’s really up to you to decide.

This anonymous person pointed out to me that the majority of 3D printer manufacturers have quite horrendous ratings. Upon further examination, I found that he was absolutely correct.

For those of you who watched the recent documentary, “Print the Legend,” you know that both 3D printer manufacturers covered in the film had some  internal turmoil, as far as work relationships went. Both MakerBot and Formlabs had workplace issues that were evident to even the most optimistic onlooker. Of course this was a documentary, and films like these have a tendency to focus on drama as a way of providing entertainment value to their viewers. However, when looking at Glassdoor, it is quite evident that the majority of these companies don’t have very satisfied employees.

MakerBot

glassdoor-makerbotMakerBot received a low rating of 2.3 out of 5 stars for their overall employee review. In all fairness, the sample size is only 51 employees, so it’s difficult to gather any conclusive decision on overall company morale. Where the numbers really get interesting, though, is the fact that only 26% of those leaving feedback approved of their CEO. Keep in mind that Bre Pettis is no longer the CEO, and the majority of these reviews were focused on him. Jenny Lawton has since taken over as the company’s new CEO. A 26% approval rating for your CEO certainly is not what most companies would aim for. Take for example, Apple and their CEO Tim Cook. His approval rating comes in at an impressive 93%, while Apple scores 3.9 stars out of a possible 5.

One employee had this to say about MakerBot, as recently as last week:

“Unfortunately, the company structure is completely disorganized after a certain merger (Stratasys Acquisition) and has created a rather chaotic environment. The pay is also less than ideal.”

Others remarked with comments such as “Soul Crushing and Toxic,” “Overworked and underpaid,” “Almost better than being homeless,” and “Clueless management and depressed employees.” In all fairness to MakerBot, there were a decent amount of positive comments as well, but it did seem as though an overwhelming amount were negative in nature.

Only 27% of these MakerBot employees have a positive business outlook for the company, while just a measly 28% would recommend that their friends get a job there. At the same time though, the company received a 1.9/5.0 for employee compensation and benefits. This could be part of the reason for the unhappiness within.

Formlabs

While Formlabs has only had 7 employees leave a review, partially because they simply don’t have as many employees as MakerBot, all 7 of them gave the company a 5-star rating, and all of them approved of CEO Maxim Lubovsky. Comments about management and overall job experience at Formlabs were very positive in nature.

formlabspatent

“Challenging, fun, and changing all the time. All around awesome,” said one employee.

“Finally found my dream job,” explained another.

So maybe not all 3D printer manufacturers are bad employers. How about the larger, more industrial-oriented companies?

3D Systems

So perhaps working for a larger company such as 3D Systems would be fun. According to Glassdoor, though, I would argue the opposite. Based on 42 reviews, the company received a pitiful 2.1 stars out of 5. Only 25% of employees approved of the job that CEO Avi Reichental was doing for the company, and just 22% had a positive business outlook for a company which just recently recieved some stiff competition from Hewlett Packard.

glassdoor-3dsystems

The overall trends for 3D Systems’ ratings have been falling steadily since early 2013, and comments from the company’s employees consist of quite a bit of negativity.

“Currently at rock bottom,” says one former manager at the company.

“Creation without execution!” explains one employee.

In comparison, internet giant Google has received a rating of 4.4 with approval of CEO Larry Page coming in at an astounding 96%, and 80% of employees saying that the company has a positive business outlook.

Stratasys

Stratasys would be considered 3D Systems’ main competition, at least up until Hewlett Packard’s recent announcement that they will be entering the 3D printing space. Stratasys is also the company which acquired MakerBot back in June 2013. You would assume that they too would have pretty pitiful ratings.

While nothing to call home about, Stratasys received a 3.3 rating out of a maxium of 5 stars, and 60% of their employees approve of the job that CEO David Reis has been doing.  At the same time, an impressive 87% have a positive business outlook.

While the overall reviews are quite mixed, consisting of comments such as “If you thrive in the challenge of dealing in day to day incompetence, this company is for you,” to “I absolutely love my job and the people here at Stratasys,” it can said that the reviews were much more on the positive side.

Overall, Stratasys received many more positive reviews than negative ones, and I would say that the general consensus, based on these small sample sizes, would make them a better company to work for in comparison to their competition.

Hewlett Packard

hewlett

While this probably is not a very fair assessment of a company that just recently announced plans to jump into the 3D printing space, I thought I’d at least provide some stats on Hewlett Packard. Keep in mind that next year the company will be splitting into two, with HP Inc. run by new CEO Dion Weisler, handling the 3D printing portion of the business. Hewlett Packard scored a 3.3 out of 5, with 79% of employees approving of the job that CEO Meg Whitman has been doing. Only 32%, however, have a positive business outlook for the company.

My overall assessment of the 3D printing space, as a whole, is that the overwhelming majority of employees (based on a small sample size) are fairly unhappy with their current jobs. With the exception of Formlabs, none of these companies really seems to have the camaraderie or sense of “being one” like the successful Googles and Apples of the world do. Perhaps this is because of the level of competition, and the fact that the 3D printing space is just now starting to hit its stride. With competition comes urgency, and with urgency comes stress. Levels of stress are transferred down the chain of command, and have the ability to infect an entire company.

Keep in mind that reviews at Glassdoor are totally anonymous, and while Glassdoor tries their best to ensure that real employees are leaving these reviews, through email validation, certification and other means, it is possible that someone could leave a bogus review.

What do you think? Do you believe that these reviews are accurate? If so, why do you think the overall employee experience at most large 3D printer manufactures are so negative? Discuss in the 3D Printer Manufacturer Employees forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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